Tigers roar back in ninth, 11th to beat Red Sox 13-12

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Alex Avila got barely a sliver of a 2-2 curveball that would have ended the game. On the next pitch, he got a whole lot more of another curve, hitting a walkoff homer to give the Tigers a 13-12 victory over the Red Sox and a three-game sweep in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox’s worst-case scenario for the rebuilt bullpen came true: Alfredo Aceves blew a 10-7 lead when Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Mark Melancon surrendered the 12-10 lead in the 12th .

Aceves, who was named Boston’s closer after Andrew Bailey underwent thumb surgery, gave up hits to all three hitters he faced, though neither of the two singles were hit very hard. The second was handled by a diving Dustin Pedroia, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time to retire the runner at second.

Cabrera’s homer, though, was a no-doubter.

Melancon retired the first batter he faced before giving up singles to both Cabrera and Prince Fielder, with Fielder hitting a modest grounder right to where the third baseman would have been if the Red Sox hadn’t been shifted over. He came back to get Delmon Young to fly to center, but Avila ended it on one too many curves.

The Red Sox got stellar relief work from their other two pitchers. Vicente Padilla pitched four scoreless innings after Clay Buchholz gave up seven runs in his four innings of work. After the game was tied in the ninth, Franklin Morales came in and struck out three in two scoreless innings. It’s Aceves and Melancon who are supposed to be getting the most important outs, though, and after two appearances, Aceves has an infinite ERA, while Melancon is at 36.00.

The Tigers got five RBI from Cabrera in the game. He finished the series with eighth. Austin Jackson went 4-for-6 and is hitting .570. Avila’s homer was his second already.

The Red Sox wasted excellent offensive performances from surprise leadoff man Nick Punto (3-for-6 with 3 RBI) and Mike Aviles (3-for-5 with three RBI). Aviles, in particular, impressed. He took a high fastball from Max Scherzer into right-center for a two-run double in the second, singled in a run in the third, executed a flawless sac bunt and then aided the 11th-inning rally with a perfect hit-and-run single, advancing Cody Ross from first to third.

All that won’t mean a thing, though. The story tomorrow will be about how the rebuilt Red Sox bullpen is ill-equipped to handle late leads. The call for Daniel Bard to return to the pen will begin before he even makes his first start.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.